La Paz, Bolivia

20th – 26th May

We arrived in Laz at 8am after a 12 hour overnight bus. The journey was very cold and there was no blankets. The ride was bumpy also so we woke often during the night. The toilets were locked so we had to wait for stops to get off. Overall, the worst bus experience so far!! We were glad to arrive in La Paz.

The bus station is 10 minutes from the plaza centre so we walked down the town. The place was busy with everyone making their way to work.

On our first day, we took the free walking tour (3 hours) which was good. It ended at at the Presidente hotel with a nice view of the city.

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P1060503 Famous prision run by inmates. Since 2010, it is no longer open to tourists, which is pity as we both were interested in taking a look inside. The wives and families live in the prision. Children live there until 11 yrs old. There are eight Bolivian Guards to look after the prision.

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We did a one day mountain biking trip – Death Road. It consisted cycling downhill 23km on a paved road and another 34km downhill on Death road. Sadly, it is famous for cars and buses going over and also some tourists doing the mountain biking. The last cyclist to die was in 2011 and last car to go over the cliff was in 2012.

The biking was great fun. It was very fast, I fell behind the group but it didn´t matter as there was a guide behind me. We went through some waterfall and saw some amazing scenery. It was thrilling, I can´t believe we were going so fast and not falling off!

The last couple days both of us have been feeling under the weather. We caught a bug, from some food or drink we have consumed. Not sure where! Feeling a bit better today.

We were due to fly to the Amazon Sunday 25th May at 4.30pm but our flight was cancelled due to bad weather. The morning flights were also cancelled. We took a flight out the following morning. We stayed 7 night stay in the jungle and came back yesturday.

I was hoping to post more photos with this blog but I have not been able to as there was very poor internet in the Jungle. We are now in Copacabana and I need to get started on uploading photos for the next blog – The Jungle Tour!

Sucre, Capital of Bolivia

11th-18th May

We stayed one night in Uyuni and the following morning, we took a four hour bus to Potosi, the highest city in the world at 4500m. Potosi used to be a rich town from silver mining. Nowadays, there is mostly tin, lead and zinc mining going on. Paddy went on a tour into the working mine. The tour started with a visit to the market to purchase cocoa leaves and cigarettes for the miners. Paddy said he really enjoyed the tour. He came back pretty dirty.. The highlight was when the guide blew up a stick of dynamine in the mine, which Paddy purchased in the market!

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The next evening, we took a three hour bus to Sucre. We booked into an Irish hostel there called Celtic Cross, which was recommended by a tourist we met in Uyuni. The hostel is opened three months and so far getting great reviews on Hostelworld. It is run by Daragh (Dublin guy) who is living in Bolivia three years, married to a lcoal girl. He was very welcoming and gave us recommendations on what to do and see in the city.

We stayed there seven days and we love the city. The weather was18-20 degrees and sunny. It was lovely to be back in the sun!

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P1060379  P1060377Trying out the foods from the local markets in Sucre. The only issue at first was translating the menu.. the Spanish classes sorted that out! P1060373 P1060363  P1060294

The local market in Sucre were fantastic. The fruit and vegtables so fresh. In the markets they sold everything from condiments to fresh spices and fresh meat. We cooked in the hostel a bit, making Chile Con Carne and vegtable soup using the ingredients purchased at the markets.

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We enrolled in Spanish lessons in Scure. Sucre is the place to do it in Bolivia as it is pretty cheap. It was $5usd p/h each for a private lesson for us both with the Bolivian Spanish School. The lessons were great, we had no Spanish when we came and now we are getting by and can understand better the times and cost and can ask for tickets/rooms etc.

The school held a cooking class one night which was fun, lots of drinking vodka and not much cooking. The receipe was emailed to me, in Spanish, so I will need to get Aunty Theresa to help me with the translation!

IMG_4699 Paddy doing his homework and practising his Spanish @ Celtic Cross Hostel

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Paddy was doing better at picking up the Spanish. We did a little competition in class, name and spell in Spanish the fruits and vegtables. Paddy did very well and kept scoring points. The teacher kept saying “Muy Beana Patrick!”  or very good Patrick. I eventually made a sort of comeback but too little too late.

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One evening, we watched a local fashion show. It was mentioned Mr South Amercia was going to be there. A large crowd turned out in the Plaza for the event.

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We went to a local soccer game, Scure v Potosi. The place was lively with a huge turnout of local supporters. There wasn´t many tourist there. The game ended 1-0 to Sucre. The home crowd chanted and played drums throughout. There were more going on in the stadium than on the pitch but a good day out. They like their food and there were people selling popcorn, ice-cream, hot food and drinks throughout.

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After Sucre we took an overnight bus to La Paz.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolovia

8th-10th May

We did a three day tour to the salt falts from San Pedro with a compnay World Wide Travel. We crossed the boarder into Bolivia on the first day. The tour was by Jeep cross country, there were six of us and the driver. Two people from Chile and two from Switzerland. The Swiss couple had excellent Spanish and English. The Bolivian guide (driver) had only Spanish so we were lucky the Swiss couple could translate what the guide was explaining.
The tour was great, the first day we travelled up to 4800m high. I had a headache from the altitude, i took tea with coca leaves which helped.  Paddy felt fine, lucky guy!

The first day we passed some lagoons and went to a lovely thermal pool with great views of the surrounding landscape.

The first night, we stayed in very basic accommodation, it was really cold that night, we were provided a winter sleeping bags and heavy blankets on the bed, so were very warm during the night. It was definately minus degrees. There was only electricity for three hours that night and cold showers. The food was good and plenty of it.

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On day two, we visited more lagoons and saw many flamingos. We also visited some rock formed by volcanos. We stayed in a Salt hotel the second night. The floors and walls of the hotel were covered in salt, it seems to act as an insulator. We had hot showers and a lovely meal. Before dinner, we explored the small village and watched local teenages playing 5-a-side football on a basketball court.

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The third day, we got up at 4.30am to make sunrise on the salt flats. The salt plains were amazing. We had lots of fun taking photos. We visited a cactus island in the middle of the salt flats, we did a little hike up to the top for some great views.
The tour finished in the town of Uyuni, with a visit to the train graveyard where we saw many old steam trains, used in the 50’s. We stayed one night in Uyuni, it is a small town, the local Bolivians were friendly, there were many small cafe restaurants serving Italian food.

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The Bolivian women have a nice style, they wear black hats, colourful shawls, big skirts, thick tights with sandals and wear their hair in plats. I’m keen to take photos of them but don’t want to upset them!

Looking forward to spending time in Bolivia, first impressions are good 🙂

 

Chile

Santiago, Valparasio and San Pedro de Atacama

30th April – 8th May
Our flight to Santiago was 11 hours with Qantas, it flew by. When we arrived I breezed through security but there was a slight delay with Paddy, it was due to another Patrick Murphy who got into some trouble in Chile so they had to do a check on Paddy! After about twenty minutes he was given the ok and a stamp.

We set back our watches 12 hours and took a bus and subway to the city. Our hostel was located in Barrio Lastarria, centrally located near the popular Belle Vista neighbourhood. That afternoon, we set out on a three hour walking tour with Tours for Tips. The tour took us through the city centre and to various points of interests. Santiago was a little chilly about 18 degrees. The Chilean tour guide spoke perfect English, the tour was excellent and a great introduction to the city. That evening, we had dinner out and bed early as we had jet lag.

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The 1st May was a public holiday in Chile, all shops and museums were shut down. In the morning, we did a hike to the top of Cerro San Cristobal where there was a church and statue of Mary. We could see nice views over the city and the snow capped peaks of the Andes.

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After,we walked around the city through a couple parks. In the afternoon, we took the subway to the main bus station to book our tickets to valparasio and San pedro de atacama. An Australian girl at the hostel mentioned if we purchased tickets a few days in advance of your travel date we would get a cheaper ticket. We took Tur Bus as it was a reputable company.
We decided our route through Chile spending two days in Valparasio (2 hrs) then returning to Santiago and getting the bus to San Pedro De Atacama (24 hrs).

We were considering the Lake District and doing a volcano trek in Pucan but the weather was wet and cold in the lakes and snowing in Patagonia. We hope to come again sometime in the summer to visit this area. Santiago is close to Australia so not too long a trip.

Valparasio was a lovely city built on hills. There is no organisation to the place with street going everywhere. The buildings are very colourful and the city has some great street art. We did another three hour walking tour which was excellent. We got some great views of the city along the way. That evening, we cooked in the hostel and had some Chilean wine with our meal. The next day, we walked along the coast to the next town Vida del Mel. The walk was lovely and weather nice and sunny.

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That afternoon, we took a bus back to Santiago and got the 7pm bus to San Pedro. The bus to San Pedro was comfortable, we were given food, blankets and we slept well that night. The following day on the bus seemed to pass by fine, we both finished a book.

About 2 hrs before we were due to arrive our bus broke down, turns out about 30 mins from the next town. The bus driver spoke in Spanish to explain what was going on, I did some sign language with a Chilean man who said bus broken an will take 2 hours. Everyone got of the bus and most of the Chileans who were going to the next town got onto buses that stopped. Eventually, it was only the tourists left and one spanish girl left who were all going to San Pedro. After one hour we caught a bus to the nearest town and were told the next bus was leaving to San Pedro at 10pm (it was now about 7.30pm, we should have arrived at 7pm). I rang the hostel to advise we were arriving late, we got in about 11pm, happy to get to our hostel and sleep in a bed!

San Pedro is a lovely town set in an oasis in the desert. There are five volcanos around the town. It is 2,500m above sea level. We stayed four night here. The plan was to do some activities and climates to the altitude before Bolivia.

We did horse-riding through the oasis and desert. Two of the horses where owned by a Swiss man named Walter, he accompanied us on the tour because we had no Spanish. The riding was lovely, the horses were quiet although were keen to trot along at times.
After the horse riding we hired mountain bikes to take us to some old ruins from the 1500s. The ruins were not that great as were taped off. We did a hike there up a small hill 200m, the views from the top were impressive.

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That night, we did Star gazing with a local tour called Space. The guide was from Europe and very interested in Astrology. We got a compressive talk about the various zodiacs stars in the sky and planets. We had a good view of the Milky Way. There were nine telescopes to view various points in the sky including The moon, Mars, Saturn, the brightest star in the sky (can’t remember the name) and various other groups of stars. The tenth telescope was used for taking photos of the moon. After our star gazing we went indoors for some hot chocolate and a Q&A session.

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The following day we did a tour to the geysers, we were collected at 4.30am and travelled up to 4,500m into the mountains. At this level altitude sickness is common, symptoms include headaches, nausea, dizziness and generally out of breath when moving quickly. We had breakfast at the geysers. After, we went to hot springs temp 35degrees and stopped at some scenic points on the way back to town. We didn´t get altitude sickness, just a little out of breath when walking fast. The geysers were great, I would definately recommend it. On the way back to San Pedro, we had a few stops to see some flamingos, limas and had a good view of a nearby active vocano. We took a break in a small town where we tried barbequed lima, it was tasty.

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Seam Reap, Cambodia

22-26th April

We arrived in Seam Reap the final destination before we fly to Kuala Lumpur and onward to Sydney. The big highlight here is Angkor Wat temples about 5km outside the city.

We stayed in a lovely hotel with a pool. The weather was 35 degrees, so it was great to have the pool to cool down. The town is smaller than Phnom Penn. We could walk down town to the markets and pub street in five minutes. There were day and night markets in Seam Reap. Pub Street was a collection of pubs and restaurants, busy every evening.

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We did a one day tour on bicycles around Angkor Wat. We hired bikes and headed off with a map. The first temples we saw were Angkor Wat which was stunning,

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On our last evening we did a cooking course with one of the restaurants on Pub street. There were eight of us cooking. We cooked a Khmer curry, mushroom soup and Mango salad. We had Banana flambé for desert. The class included a trip to the markets to see the local meats and vegetables. The class was excellent, hands on, we were full going home. A great end to the trip.

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The next morning we headed to the airport to fly to Kuala Lumpur.

We stayed over night and got a flight the following day to Sydney. Unfortunately, we missed our flight in KL and were delayed 13 hours until the next flight. It was terrible for a few hours but we got over it and went back into the city to see the towers and browse the shops at KLCC, excellent shopping here if your in the mood for spending.

We had a great time with Denise in Sydney over the last few days. One day we drove to Palm beach, they were not filming Home & Away which was a pity. The beach is gorgeous, soft sand. It was a nice day also. We also did some cooking most evenings for Denise. One evening we went out to a Brazilian barbeque, it was tasty.

Today, we have bags backed and are ready for the airport, on time! We fly to Santiago in Chile, the flight is 13 hours. Chile is 11 hours behind so we don’t actually lose time. We are excited and a bit nervous but overall looking forward to seeing South America. We will be there for three months. We have a pocket phrase book in the carry on – some plane reading.

 

Phomn Penn, Cambodia

19th-21st April

We arrived in Phnom Penn in the afternoon and found a hotel close to the Palace which was pretty central. We walked around town for the afternoon and went for a few drinks that evening. The weather in Phnom Penn was 34 degrees. it felt very hot walking around. The city was large and cosmopolitan. We noticed alot of American cars including Rolls Royce and Bentleys.

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Quick pitts stop to change a tyre at the local garage # Quin Road Tyres in Cambodia

We stayed three days in Phnom, the second day we went to the genocide museum which was originally a school before it was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and turned into a prison back. It was very sad to see what went on there. Words can’t describe it. The killing fields were outside the city, we didn’t go. That evening we found a cool little cinema with beds to lie on, we watched the movie Joe which was good.

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The next day, we went to see the Palace and walked around. I rocked up in shorts and t-shirt which wasn’t suitable attire, we went back to the hotel and I changed into pants and long sleeve shirt and we went back in the afternoon. The palace was stunning, with beautiful grounds and buildings. We spent a nice afternoon touring around and looking at the sights. They had a mini Angkor Wat which I thought was very impressive.

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The next day we decided to take a day bus to Siem Reap which took about 8 hours. It was a couple hours over schedule due to road works.

We really enjoyed Phnom Penn, the people were friendly, they didn’t really hassle you to buy stuff. The children were cute and very friendly. There was some child labour which was terrible to see. The country seems divided between those better off and the poor.

Mekong Delta Tour

Mekong Delta, Southern Vietnam 15th-18th April
We are coming to our last days in Vietnam, we have really enjoyed the country. We booked a three day tour of the Mekong delta region travelling down South and then up towards the Cambodian boarder. On the third day, we took a slow boat to Phonm Penn. We purchased the visa’s on board the boat with the help of our tour guide. The first day of the tour we travelled by bus down to My Tho. Our first stop was for some fruit and tea and to listen to local musicians singing and playing musical instrument. The sound was quiet different to western music, a bit sore on the ears. We didn’t purchase the CD. After we took a small boat down the Mekong river, the river was quiet, we were on the look out for crocodiles but didn’t find any. Next stop was to a Coconut candy factory where we saw local people produce coconut sweets. We learned how the locals extract the coconut meat from the coconut, which is used for the sweets, they also make coconut oil. We sampled peanut coconut sweets and also coconut sweets with chocolate. They were tasty.

Next, we saw a local beehive and tasted the honey with some tea, it was very sweet. After, somebody took out a a four year old phyton which we got to hold. The skin was leathery and it wriggled around a lot.
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Later, we travelled down the river and stopped off for lunch which was a simple dish of rice, veg and pork. We got chatting to a New Zealand couple and sat with them for lunch. After, we came back to the mainland and to the bus to take us to a nearby Pagoda and some budda’s. We then travelled by bus to Can Tho where we are staying in a bungalow, homestay. We made some more spring rolls. Paddy brushing up his skills learned in Halong Bay. We ate fish for dinner, with rice paper rolls and veg. The dinner was simple but tasty. 

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Next morning, we went to the floating markets by boat which consisted of boats selling vegetables. Small boats would pull up to the boats and purchase veg, it was a wholesale market, with minimum quantities about 5kg of each product sold. Next we went to a local village and went for a cycle. The village was popular for making rice noddles, we watched a local family business make the rice noddles.

After lunch the tour travelled by bus up towards Chao Duc, town by the Cambodian boarder In the afternoon, we were back on the boat and touring around the area to see wild boards and a forest. It was really nice sailing around on the boat. That night we went for dinner in Chao Duc, there wasn’t many restaurant catering for tourists. We found a pizzeria eventually.

Next morning we went to see a fish farm who farmed Basa fish Telapia and after a family who weave scarf’s and old fashion Vietnamese  clothes. At 8.30am, we were back on the boat and cruising slowly up the Mekong River. We were the only two on the slow boat to the boarder, two hour boat ride. The other tourists chose the fast boat which seemed packed, we were happy with the slow boat as we got to see the countryside on the way, do some reading and take some photos. Our tour guide was very interested in taking photos, on the boat ride she asked to take our photos and ended up taking alot of us sitting on the boat. We had a laugh as we moved around to do another pose. It was funny.

At the boarder, she sorted out the paperwork for the visa’s and we were in Cambodia by lunchtime.

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